Most New Hampshire towns will be having their town, village district, and school district elections next Tuesday, March 14, 2023. Some towns have their school district or town elections before or after this date.
Political advertising, mailers, and signs are one of the treasured traditions of New Hampshire elections. They are also a physical expression of people’s First Amendment right of free speech. However, voters also have a right, under New Hampshire law, to know who is issuing political advertising in support or opposition to a candidate or a question on the ballot.
The Attorney General’s Office has received five complaints this week regarding political advertising that does not identify who is responsible for it. Because some of the elections/meetings are occurring as soon as Thursday, March 9, Attorney General John M. Formella is releasing the following information and update:
- In Thornton, in yesterday’s press release, our Office identified some individuals involved with the group of approximately 20 Thornton residents who are responsible for the “stopthetax” website and the “Thornton Taxpayers group”. We incorrectly identified Bob Hatcher as Bob Hatch. Both David Rivers and Bob Hatcher worked with us to correct the website and signs, so they now comply with RSA 664:14.
- In Newfields, an unidentified party published the website “supportnewfields.com” and placed signs in town opposing the candidacy of an individual running for selectboard at the March 14 election. The website and signs violated RSA 664:14. After issuing yesterday’s press release, Kevin Davis, of Newfields, contacted our Office and identified that he and his wife are responsible for the website. They immediately took down the website until they could speak with us and take any necessary corrective action. The website is being updated to include a contact person to identify the responsible party for the political advertising. The signs will be in compliance with RSA 664:14 based on the website update.
- In Hollis, an unidentified party sent mailers asking voters to vote “NO” on Warrant Article 2 at Hollis’s March 18 town meeting. The mailers, which were issued under a United States Postal permit from Tampa, Florida, violated RSA 664:14. After issuing yesterday’s press release, Eugene Ward, of Hollis, contacted our Office and identified that he and a group of neighbors on Witches Spring Road are responsible for the mailer. The group is known as “Hollis Residents Against Witches Spring Development Recreation Complex.” This group is developing flyers to hand out and has two banners. The group will use an email address that will be included with their group name on the flyers and banners to comply with RSA 664:14.
- In Raymond, an unidentified party has published the website “raymondrights.com”. The website contains endorsements of candidates and warrant articles on the Raymond ballot in the March 14 election but violates RSA 664:14. The Election Law Unit is continuing to investigate.
- In Amherst, an identified party has published the website “amhersttoday.com” which includes endorsements of town and school district candidates and opposition to warrant articles on the March 14 town and school district ballots but violates RSA 664:14. The website states that it is “provided by concerned Amherst citizens who wish to remain anonymous.” The Election Law Unit is continuing to investigate.
In each of these matters, the political advertising did not contain information identifying the party that paid for or distributed it. Under New Hampshire law, political advertising that does not have the required disclosure information can be removed by municipal maintenance personnel and law enforcement. As the elections are so close, the identities of these individuals may not be known prior to the elections. As a result, Attorney General Formella reminds voters to do their own research on candidates and warrant articles before they vote.